Various Artists

The Passion of the Christ: Songs Inspired by The Passion of the Christ

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Passion of the Christ: Songs Inspired by the Passion of the Christ is a selection of tunes handpicked by Mel Gibson, who's listed as the album's producer. According to his website, he chose these songs by contemporary artists because they exemplify, in some way, the depth of emotion in the film and, in some aesthetic way, are a companion to the journey. Along with recognizable rock and country songs by Bob Dylan ("It's Not Dark Yet"), Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds ("Darker With the Day"), Elvis Presley ("Where No One Stands Alone"), Leonard Cohen ("By the River Dark"), Leon Russell ("Stranger in a Strange Land"), the Blind Boys of Alabama ("Precious Lord"), and others, there are tracks specifically recorded for this set, like former Cranberry Dolores O'Riordan's plaintive rendering of "Ave Maria," "Please Carry Me Home," recorded by Jessi Colter and Shooter (her son with Waylon Jennings), and Holly Williams' singing her grandfather Hank's "How Can You Refuse Him Now." Does it work? Oh yeah. Most of the tunes created for this recording are amazing; they add immeasurably, and in different ways to Gibson's atmospheric aural road. The Holly Williams tune, accompanied only by outside sounds and a lone, barely audible piano, open the record and is so arresting you might forget to breathe until it's over. Colter and Shooter's song is a modern country gospel number filled with drama and passion, and O'Riordan's reverential treatment of a traditional song is a class act. The only thing that doesn't work is "Why Me," the Kris Kristofferson tune done so definitively by Johnny Cash. It's not the singer's fault, though; this song belongs to the Man in Black alone. Why Gibson didn't just license it -- or at least the songwriter's original, which is also better than this one -- is a mystery. As for the rest of the cuts here, both well-known and obscure, Gibson's sequencing is like that of a seasoned, well-versed disc jockey on late-night radio, carrying his listeners along for the ride into the dark night that ends at dawn. Very fine.

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